Baltimore native and NBA star Carmelo Anthony and a near-capacity crowd at Coppin State saw quality high-stakes basketball Thursday night — a huge winner-take-all cash prize in the championship game of The Basketball Tournament at stake.
While Overseas Elite came away with its third straight tournament title and the $2 million — holding off gutsy Team Challenge ALS, 86-83 — the city of Baltimore also came away equally rewarded in proving a fine host for the three-day national event.
“For me, it’s about the spirit of Baltimore, giving back,” said Anthony, a former Towson Catholic star. “Yesterday, we had a “Day of Giving” where we went to a lot of communities and I got a medal from the mayor [Catherine Pugh], so it’s bringing positive attention and connecting with a lot of things. This right here is big — not just for TBT but Baltimore.”
After the 64-team field was whittled down to two, Thursday’s title game was the classic mismatch that went down to the wire.
In winning, Overseas Elite remains perfect with a 19-0 record in its three tournament appearances.
Beating Team Challenge ALS didn’t come easy for the perennial champions.
The underdog started fast, building a 13-point lead by the midpoint of the 18-minute first half before Overseas chipped away and took a 49-45 halftime lead on a 3-pointer at the buzzer from Paris Horne.
The game stayed tight throughout the second half, the champions always staying a bit ahead before showing poise at the end. Former Arizona standout Kyle Fogg scored a game-high 29 points, hitting four free throws in the final minute to secure the win — the last coming with 1.6 seconds left.
“Sadly, we always seem to dig ourselves a little hole and are having to fight back, but I think our championship experience has us battled tested,” Fogg said. “Just the fact we’ve been here before and we know what we have to do helped us.”
In winning the West region, the sixth-seeded Team Challenge ALS knocked off four higher seeds to reach the championship game, the last an 88-83 double-overtime win against Ohio State alumni Scarlet & Gray in Tuesday’s semifinal. On Thursday, it finally met its match.
The three-day event — Wednesday’s community service day sandwiched between the semifinals and championship game — was considered a big success with TBT founder and CEO Jon Mugar, who added Baltimore will be strongly considered to host the tournament in the future.
“The city did a great job of building awareness for the event and it certainly helps when you have the backing of someone like Carmelo Anthony. So I feel really great how things have gone the first year here in Baltimore,” Mugar said. “I feel like Baltimore, in terms of what the city represents, very much aligns with our core interests.”
LaRian Finney, CEO of the Baltimore-based Finn Group that planned the event, said he couldn’t have mapped things out any better.
“I was standing along the balcony on Tuesday and saw the real story,” he said. “You looked at the audience and all it’s ethnicities, all the age groups, there in West Baltimore. That’s really the story. How you begin to change the narrative of the city is just by continuously putting good stuff out there and folks see it.”